The Art of Plot

How to Plot and Structure Your Novel

Michelle Richmond
Dec 7, 2020 · 3 min read
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“The writer’s job is to get the main character up a tree, and then once they are up there, throw rocks at them.” Vladimir Nabokov

“The writer’s job is to get the main character up a tree, and then once they are up there, throw rocks at them.” Vladimir Nabokov

Of course, there’s more to plot than getting your character up a tree, but it’s not a bad place to start.

When I made my first attempt at writing a novel about 25 years ago, the most difficult craft issue I faced was plot. I had been reading and writing literary short fiction in graduate school, and one thing we rarely discussed was plot. In graduate writing workshops, “plot” was almost a dirty word, along with unmentionables like “bestseller” and “genre.”

In my second novel, I still struggled with plot. I made a lot of wrong turns. I wrote myself into tricky corners I couldn’t quite get out of. Many years on, with six novels under my belt, I won’t pretend books come easily to me. However, I do have a much clearer understanding of how to plot and structure a novel. Much of this knowledge comes from doing, and much of it comes from decades of reading, analyzing, and teaching.

The rhythm of language comes naturally to us as children and our mastery of it intensifies as we grow into adulthood, especially if we are avid readers. Storytelling, too, is a natural human instinct, passed down through generations. But when it comes to plot — and particularly plotting long-form fiction — most of us have a steep learning curve to master.

If your novel lacks urgency, if the story lags in the middle, if the book is all over the place and searching for direction, my masterclass The Art of Plot: How to Plot and Structure the Novel, is for you. In this nine-week course, you will learn:

  • how to write compelling scenes
  • how to craft strong subplots and weave them into the larger narrative
  • how to write a first chapter with real urgency
  • how to develop your plot in a logical but surprising way
  • how to pace your novel
  • how to create suspense in any genre

…and more. There are no live sessions to attend, so you can cover the material at your own pace and jump into the discussions whenever you like.

When you join The Art of Plot Masterclass, you will be part of a community of writers who are learning together, writing together, and taking the craft of writing seriously.

The lessons and assignments will be available to you for a year, so you have plenty of time to revisit and absorb the material. Packed with graduate-level craft lessons, recommended reading, and clear guidance, this course will help you become a better, more confident writer.

Eudora Welty wrote:

A plot is a thousand times more unsettling than an argument, which may be answered.

The unsettling is half the fun. Getting your character up the tree. Throwing rocks. Figuring out what happens next.

If this sounds like the course you need to get your novel on track, sign up for The Art of Plot Masterclass today. I’d love to see you in class.

Michelle Richmond
Founder, Fiction Attic Press and Fiction Master Class

Michelle Richmond is the New York Times bestselling author of six novels and two story collections. Her books have been published in 30 languages. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her new novel is forthcoming from Grove Atlantic.

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Michelle Richmond

Written by

NYT bestselling author of the THE MARRIAGE PACT and THE YEAR OF FOG. Caffeinated in Cali. Books at michellerichmond.com Write with me at https://thenewMFA.com

The Caffeinated Writer

Notes on novel writing, publishing, and the writing life from New York Times bestselling novelist Michelle Richmond. Write your novel in my Fiction Master Class: https://thenewmfa.com

Michelle Richmond

Written by

NYT bestselling author of the THE MARRIAGE PACT and THE YEAR OF FOG. Caffeinated in Cali. Books at michellerichmond.com Write with me at https://thenewMFA.com

The Caffeinated Writer

Notes on novel writing, publishing, and the writing life from New York Times bestselling novelist Michelle Richmond. Write your novel in my Fiction Master Class: https://thenewmfa.com

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